Government branded hypocritical after introducing tougher asbestos penalties

Government branded hypocritical after introducing tougher asbestos penalties

THE State Government has been labelled “hypocritical” after announcing it was introducing new penalties aimed at promoting asbestos safety.

Under amended regulations, a person convicted of an asbestos-related offence will face a penalty of up to $10,000, while corporations found guilty of mishandling the material could be hit with fines of up to $50,000.

“This represents a 10-fold increase in the current penalties but I am sure people will agree these changes are justified, given the dangerous nature of asbestos products under certain conditions,” Health Minister John Day said.

On-the-spot infringement notices, bringing with them penalties worth $2000, can also be issued by local government-authorised officers.

But Greens MLC Lynn MacLaren said the State Government was being hypocritical, believing it had been indifferent to concerns the Roe 8 project area was riddled with the dangerous material.

“Residents have been pleading with the Government for information on the dust clouds which may contain deadly asbestos fibres,” she said.

“Instead of providing information and peace of mind for residents, this Government has now announced new fines of $10,000 for individuals, $50,000 for corporations and on the spot infringements for those caught failing to take appropriate safeguards when disposing of asbestos.

“This is nothing short of ludicrous. It looks like the Premier will be the first to pay hefty fines under their own new guidelines.”

Mr Day defended the Government, saying there was nothing hypocritical about toughening legislation to protect the community and discouraging people from disposing of asbestos products inappropriately.

A spokesman for Transport Minister Bill Marmion said there were strict environmental management procedures in place at the Roe 8 work site to ensure people were safe.

“WorkSafe have inspected the site and are satisfied that the processes outlined in the Construction Environment Management Plan are being undertaken,” he said.

“Regular testing for contaminants is carried out on the construction site throughout the project and in the interest of health and safety, air quality and dust deposition monitors are in place during clearing operations to protect workers and the public.”

Cockburn’s environmental health manager Nick Jones said the City was confident contractors were taking the necessary measures to ensure people were safe from asbestos.

“The City has received two sets of laboratory results provided by private individuals that suggest asbestos materials were present in the areas prior to them being cleared of vegetation,” he said.

“Roe 8 contractors, subsequent to the samples being taken, have advised that they have checked and removed any asbestos prior to those areas being cleared, with additional checks occurring during the clearing.”

But Mr Jones said dust emissions from clearing remains an issue.

The City is against clearing until at least April, with concerns dust disturbed by crews could impact the health of neighbouring residents.

Local resident Nicolette Willison said dust plumes led her to seek medical help.

“I just want someone to reassure me that my children are safe and not at risk from exposure to asbestos and I would like to know how they are going to stop the current levels of dust which are making us sick,” she said